N/IICU Feeding Specialist

While in the Newborn/Infant Intensive Care Unit (N/IICU), your baby may receive care from a speech-language pathologist (SLP). You may also hear them referred to as speech therapists, feeding specialists or SLPs.

Role of a speech-language pathologist in the N/IICU

SLPs in the N/IICU help your baby with feeding and early communication skills. They assess your baby’s readiness to feed by mouth and help your baby feed safely, especially if your baby is having difficulty nursing or taking a bottle. They will work with your family to promote early communication skills through your interactions with your baby.

SLPs who work in the N/IICU are specially trained to work on feeding as well as to provide developmentally appropriate and supportive care. Depending on your baby’s needs, the SLP may provide the following:

  • Pre-feeding readiness assessment.
  • Oral motor and swallowing evaluations.
  • Oral stimulation suggestions for babies who are not yet ready to breast or bottle feed.
  • Feeding interventions to improve skills and safety.
  • Support to parents who desire to breastfeed by working closely with lactation specialists.
  • Early communication therapy.
  • Parent and caregiver education.
  • Resources for follow-up care when needed.

Helping you support your baby

SLPs can teach you the following:

  • How to identify feeding readiness cues and stress cues during feedings.
  • Activities to help your baby develop the ability to breast or bottle feed.
  • Suggestions for oral stimulation for babies who are not ready to breast or bottle feed.
  • How to choose the appropriate bottle and nipple flow rate for your baby.
  • How to find the best positions to feed your baby.
  • Strategies and precautions to be aware of during feeding.
  • How to identify signs of swallowing difficulties.
  • How to stimulate your baby’s early speech and language development.